I overheard a conversation between two gas station workers today, and it got me thinking; are we so busy doing church that we actually forget to be the the Church? The question seems more complicated than it actually is. You see, I think there are a ton of Christians that get hung up on going to church, tithing, helping with ministries, baking pies, serving on committees, etc., rather than focus on why the church does these things. There are also people who seem to get so invested in what the Bible has to say, they miss the entire message!
I’m reminded of a story. I don’t know if this actually happened, or if it is a modern parable, but it is still worth listening to.
Pastor Jeremiah Steepek transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning.
He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him.
He asked people for change to buy food – no one in the church gave him change.
He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back.
He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.
As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such.
When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation.
“We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.
The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with all eyes on him.
He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame.
He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”
He then dismissed service until next week.
It really is amazing the things that we forget about this life we chose. Being a Christian isn’t something that you are born into, it isn’t something passed down, it is something that we have to chose. That choice can take us to some pretty hard places. Just like all the people in that church, we forget that we are called to love one another. When asked, Jesus said the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 NASB). Paul writes in his famous chapter about love, “If I could speak all the languges of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body to be burned, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT).
So if love is not in our hearts, we miss the point. If we don’t love, we get stuck doing church rather than being the Church. It is my prayer that we show the world the love found in Christ, not the condemnation without Him. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NASB).